State auditors demand safety management of whale meat

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-12-06 16:46 Updated : 2018-12-06 16:46
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SEOUL -- South Korean state auditors sounded an alarm bell against the consistent consumption of Cetacean meat, which has been traded with no proper safety management or inspection of heavy metals and other hazardous materials.

Hunting is banned in South Korea, but whales face threats from by-catch and pollution. The greatest threat of accidental death is stow nets used widely by fishermen who are allowed to keep and sell whales accidentally trapped in nets. Hundreds of whales have legally been auctioned off every year.

From 2015 to June this year, some 650,306 kilograms of cetacean meat were auctioned off, according to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), a state body which inspects government agencies to assure that their duties are being performed appropriately.

Over the same period, 307 minke whales and 1,006 common dolphins were traded through designated cooperative markets which gather fishery products for commission selling, the board said in a report published this week, citing data from the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives.

However, the board said there has been no safety management by health authorities to monitor the level of organic pollutants and heavy metals contained in whale meat.

"Cetaceans that are likely to contain heavy metals and other harmful materials are on the market, but there is a risk of causing danger to the public health because of no safety management," it said. "The Minister of Oceans and Fisheries should establish a safety management system for heavy metal contamination through the hazard monitoring of cetaceans."

For years, cetacean bycatch has not dwindled thanks to South Korea's deep-rooted whale-eating culture. Critics argue there is a loophole through which poachers can operate despite an active campaign by environmental and animal rights activists at home and abroad.

A coastguard report in January last year showed that 9,710 aquatic mammals were found dead in South Korean waters between 2011 and 2015. Over the same period, 6,550 finless porpoises were entangled in nets.